One more game and one more showdown awaited two Grand Bahamian high school basketball programs this past Monday at the St. Georges’ Gymnasium.
Last year the senior boys’ National Championship trophy went back to New Providence with the C. C. Sweeting Cobras. This year, the senior boys’ championship was certain to remain in Grand Bahama.
This time the national crown was decided between the number-five seeded St. Georges’ Jaguars and the number-one seeded Tabernacle Falcons, the fourth championship clash between the two programs this season.
The Jaguars came out and played inspired basketball from the opening tip. The Falcons looked to create a late surge to power them through. In the end the Jaguars walked away from this battle as national champions, knocking off the Falcons 61-53.
Sixteen points and 13 rebounds from center Howard Hinzey, who also was named Most Valuable Player (MVP), powered the Jags.
Post-game, Hinzey recollected about last year’s loss and how it motivated he and his team to right the ship this time around.
“It feels very good. Last year we made the finals and we came up short, this year we trusted the process, we did what our coaches said and it turned out successful for us,” he said. “I was very upset I couldn’t be there for my team in the league championships (GBSSAA), so I was obsessed with getting better for nationals.
“My mom could tell you, every day I was running, putting in that work running 3.4 miles every morning because I wanted to come out here and make a difference.”
After completing his high school career a national champion, Hinzey is prepared to take his game to the next level.
“I plan on heading to Pensacola State College,” he said, “I’m looking forward to getting my chance to make it off this island and once I do, making the most of my opportunity.”
The Jaguars displayed balance and also got 16 points out of shooting guard Kyle Smith, who also pulled down four rebounds. Kingcy Thompson, who left last year’s championship game due to injury, finished with 12 points, two rebounds and two steals. Ahmad Harvey added in a 10-point, 11-rebound double/double along with five blocks.
Jaguars’ coach Darrell Sears relished in the win and received congratulations from everyone who knew how hard he’s worked with this team. Now, with national champion added to the team’s resume, he voiced his pleasure in seeing the hard work pay off for his players.
“To God be the glory great things He has done. We lost early and it was a blessing in disguise,” he said, "because we played more games than Tabernacle and it allowed us to fix some things. We went through some bumps and bruises, but we saw growth and we were confident that once we came in and did what we saw that we were doing in the other games we would put it all together and we would win the game.
“All the guys did well. We had some little issues here and there, again like any other team, but I’m so happy for Kingcy Thompson. He got hurt last year and he came back and he played so well this year, but the whole team did well.”
The Jaguars had the early momentum in this one, but they only held a slim 13-12 lead to end the first quarter.
The two heavyweights traded their best shots in the second quarter. The Jaguars seemed quicker to the 50-50 balls and defended the perimeter, where the Falcons had been deadly. The Jaguars went into halftime with a 26-23 lead.
Back-to-back threes from Kyle smith pushed the lead up to eight for the Jaguars, 35-27 with 5:06 left to play in the third.
A Davonte Jennings spin move and lay-in gave the Jags a 39-27 lead with 2:30 left on the clock in the third. The Jags’ lead grew 42-31 later on. But the falcons began to mount a comeback and cut into the lead, 35-42. The Falcons kept the Jags in their sight going into the fourth, down 40-46.
The Jaguars opened their lead 52-45, with the Falcons close behind in the early minutes of the fourth. The eventual champions held a 56-50 lead with 2:30 left on the clock.
The Falcons looked to find that spark late in the quarter, but Harvey increased the lead, 58-50 with a spin-move and lay in through the lane. Harvey was sent to the line moments later and made it a 10-point 60-50 lead, with 1:20 to go.
A Seandre Todd (11 points; five rebounds) three-pointer made it a 60-53 game in favor of the Jaguars, with 47.8 seconds left to spare. A free throw from Smith cemented the final score. The Jaguars ran out the clock after a few missed last minute attempts.
Desmond Butler finished with 12 points and five assists for the Falcons. Regis Cooper turned in nine points, six rebounds and four steals. Franco Miller Jr. had a rough night shooting from the field and finished with just seven points and six rebounds.
Published Wednesday, March 8, 2017